“Who and what do societal and cultural institutions tell you that you are?” HT: Desiree Adaway
This question came across my Facebook feed this morning; in truth, Desiree Adaway posts provocative thoughts on a daily basis. The timing of it mattered because my thoughts have been marinating about a social media storm that happened last weekend and they have finally (mostly) become coherent enough to share.
I’m going to give the short version of what happened last weekend without any screen shots, mostly in the interest of not resurrecting the whole thing AGAIN. Here are the key points:
- White cis male surgeon posts an irrelevant and incredibly sexist response to an article on Doximity; he apparently thinks that his response constitutes “humor”.
- Outrage follows from many women surgeons and male allies. Outrage includes LOTS of Twitter bandwidth and screenshots being shared of his comment with his identity. Outrage also includes people identifying his Twitter accounts and putting comments/ ratings on his practice social media sites.
- Questioning of the level of outrage occurs with concern expressed that “this could ruin his practice”. Response from those involved is essentially that he earned the judgment.
Other than expressing my horror at his remark, I largely stayed out of the fray because I couldn’t get entirely comfortable with what any further response should be. Some of my colleagues provided thoughtful and eloquent responses on Doximity on the thread in question. One colleague with a significant social media presence actually tried to reach out to him (I don’t know if she was successful or not). A colleague who pled for those who were publicly sharing his information to be thoughtful seemed mystified by the backlash.
And, towards the end of all of this social media hurricane, I hope I was able to crystallize many of the issues into one thing:
The comment implied to women surgeons that we are “less than” in some way. It’s an experience that has happened to nearly all (if not all) of us at some point in our career- we have been told, either implicitly or explicitly, that we aren’t as good, aren’t as qualified, aren’t all that merely because of our gender. For our women colleagues who are racial and ethnic minorities, they often are told that they are “less than” twice- once for their gender, and again for their skin color.
The truth is that unless you’ve been told that you are “less than” it’s hard to internalize what that experience is like. The truth is that when you’ve fought your entire career to not be “less than” (which has often required being “greater than”), that yes, you are going to be outraged when someone publicly indicates that simply by virtue of your chromosomal makeup that you are “less than.” The truth is that many of us are tired of those messages of being “less than,” and we’re simply not willing to put up with it anymore- either for ourselves or for those around us. It’s not cute, it’s not funny, and it’s simply not okay.
Lest you think I’m trying to justify the public shaming that occurred, I’m not, because I’m still ambivalent about parts of it. What I am trying to provide is a window on why the response was so furious for those who don’t get it. It’s only partially about the one statement, which reflects anywhere from years to a lifetime of messaging that we’re simply not willing to tolerate anymore. Neither should you.